On G-strings and Clear Plastic Heels
15 Secrets of the Girls on the Stripper Pole
1. We are phenomenal businesswomen.
We might shake our booty more and carry briefcases less than your average businesswoman, but we still qualify. We are great at business because we have to be. When we got hired, we signed on as independent contractors—meaning we pay nightly to lease the club’s stage space, and the club itself doesn’t pay us a dime. My body and my time function as my own small business.
Because of this, we size you up hard and get really good at it. I can tell within two minutes of sitting on your lap if you will be profitable to me. I know if you try to get handsy on the floor for free that you won’t spend the money to do it VIP, and I know that if you mention how much money you make you probably won’t be spending any on me on stage. I know that bachelors and birthday boys almost always solicit me for sex and that if you say “maybe later” to a private dance, I shouldn’t bother coming back.
From day one, dancers navigate start-up costs like outfits and specialty heels. Over the course of our careers, dancers have to pay for the makeup and hygiene products that keep us successful and that seem to disappear at hyper-speed. Nightly, dancers pay out to the DJ, bouncers, house mom and bartenders. So while it’s all fun and games when I pick up dollar bills with my boobs, I am constantly doing the math in my head to make sure I’m pulling in a livable profit.
2. We went from 0 to 100 real quick.
Unlike most jobs, there is no training for strippers. My audition was my first actual stage set; they told me to take off my clothes and hop on stage in a packed club.
I was hired at 4:30 p.m. and worked that whole night. Nobody tells you how to dance, how to take your clothes off, how to carry a clutch wallet on stage for your dollar bills, how to talk to customers, where and how to do private dances. You learn by doing, and you learn by watching. Luckily, I had a woman named Doll take pity on me and give me pointers when she saw me doing something wrong. She paid me the first dollar I ever made as a stripper. I never saw her again, but I owe her my entire career.
3. Our beauty hacks are top-notch.
Most of our income is dependent on how we look, smell and feel. Maintaining the persona of Your Ultimate Fantasy Girl is a lot harder than it looks—whipping around a pole, twerking in a squat and grinding on different men all night.
Over the years, my colleagues and I have come up with a few tricks of the trade. I know a woman who puts coffee grounds on her cellulite and another who uses strategically-placed dressing room spray tans. A girl named Diamond once taught me the perfect water: foundation ratio that leaves her "glowy" while conserving makeup. We’re often covered in baby powder from the roots of our head to the toes of our shoes. And since strippers have to be absolutely hairless, we’ve got pretty good at shaving (only use oil!) and ohh the places we put deodorant.
But the big kahuna to get us through the night is the infamous “stripper shower” after every stage set or lap dance: hand sanitizer, a baby wipe and a spritz of body spray. And then we’re ready to shove our buttcracks in people’s faces again. Glamourous.
4. No matter what we do, though, strippers are pretty much alligators.
Strippers get used to having super dry skin. We aren’t allowed to wear lotion because it makes the pole a horrifying lube-tube of death—not just for the person wearing lotion, but for everyone who uses the pole after them. We also have calluses in the weirdest of places—our kneecaps, inner thighs, inner arms, shoulders, you name it. We roll around on the floor a lot.
5. Stripper are therapists.
Every stripper has listened to her fair share of men cry. We get it. We don’t even mind! If you’re paying for my time, you can use it however you want (within reason). If you don’t want me to dance for you and instead want to bitch about your wife, or your daughter’s new boyfriend, or your job, or how nervous you are about the new baby, that’s just fine. I am a great listener.
I’ve also seen some couples therapy go down in my day. Middle-aged couples trying to find sexual reawakening is not all that uncommon in the clubs, and a lot of the time, they find what they’re looking for. We’re happy to help.
6. You just paid $8 to buy me a shot of water.
For me, at least. In my club, you can’t say no when a guy offers you a drink, but if you’re under 21 (like I was when I started) or don’t want to get drunk, all clubs have a code for a fake drink at full price.
It is true that some of my colleagues get shitfaced and become useless for the rest of the night. I have seen many a drunk stripper stumbling around in tears because she didn’t make enough to afford her Uber home. It’s also true that some of us drink casually at work and it helps with talking to customers. But most importantly for me, I know that I will make more money if I’m sober. It allows me to remain in control of the conversation and physical environment (and profit) as much as possible.
Most importantly for you, you should know that we will not get drunk and loose. There is no number of drinks you can put in a stripper to make her give you (illegal) extras. If you try this, you are a horrible creepy douche, but moreover, you will not succeed. We are conditioned to reject that at all times; it’s instinctual. If you did succeed, a bouncer would see you and punch you in the face. And I would enjoy watching it.
That being said, you should still buy us a “drink” or two as a conversation starter. It’s a great way to initiate contact if you’re shy.
7. Speaking of which, “How much for extras?”
8. I am literally never less turned on…
Than when I am straddling a stranger in uncomfortable undies and heels while sweaty and tired, or shaking my ass to an Akon song I’ve heard a million times, or letting you vape into my cleavage, or drinking a fake drink while giggling at your jokes. This is not sexy for me. This is work. Strippers are never thinking about sex on stage. Most of us are thinking about your plate of onion rings that smell delightful that we aren’t allowed to eat.
Which is not to say it’s terrible. It’s actually helpful. If I made this job about me and did it to satisfy myself, I’d never sell a lap dance to anyone I wasn’t attracted to. That would be a terrible career choice. Instead, it helps me make my job about the customer, giving them the best service for their dollar.
9. Most of us are in healthy, committed relationships.
It’s true! Some of the old pros remember to take their wedding rings off before they hit the floor. Hell, a handful of the girls are dating each other. Our partners understand that our work is just that—work.
To perpetuate the fantasy, though, we will always lie and tell you we are single.
10. The backstage drama is reality-show-level intense at times.
I will never forget the day that a veteran stripper laid down the law for the new girls about illegal activities in the club. She said, “If you’re hookin’ in my club, you’re messing with my money. If you’re messing with my money, you’re messing with my kids. And if you mess with my kids, I’ll kill you.”
This job is our source of income to provide for ourselves and our families, and we’ve been known to get protective of it. Sometimes this protect-my-turf mentality escalates to fights. Other times it’s political. Once, a girl who had been there a while and had some pull with the management actually got my friend fired simply because she didn’t like her!
Thievery in the locker room also leads to a lot of drama. Whether it’s stolen outfits, stolen money, stolen makeup, or (in my case) a stolen phone, some girls steal things. Fuck those girls.
The rule of thumb for avoiding this drama is to keep your head down, never talk shit and lock your stuff up.
11. You will never understand the angsty desperation of un-crumpling dollar bills.
#StripperProbs at its finest. I’ve had guys turn bills into paper planes to shoot at me, or towers, or just ball them up. Every time I see a guy do something clever with a dollar bill, I picture myself sitting criss-cross-applesauce for two hours in front of an ATM that won’t recognize my buttcrack money. A line forms, people watch, they give me the she-is-probably-a-stripper-look and a mom of twins trades me for my buttcrack ones so her kids can go to the arcade. It’s a fun time.
12. Finding a clean thong is like winning the lottery.
Okay, it’s about to get a little gross up in here, so bear with me. Sometimes you find a thong in or around your bag, second guess if it’s yours, give it a little sniff test and wear it anyway. Sometimes a cop pulls you over and you have to explain the seven thongs in your passenger seat. Sometimes a thong falls out of your purse in a grocery store. Sometimes an entire load of laundry is just thongs. Sometimes you have thong nightmares. It’s okay to cry when that happens.
13. If I wanted an “easy way out,” this would not be it.
First of all, the work is physically demanding as hell. We are athletes. This work is hard on a body, and if you were to turn the loud music off for a few minutes, our popping joints would make it sound like your great grandmother was up on that pole. (Sorry for the visual.) It’s also incredibly mentally taxing. Not only are we performing for the public, something most people fear, we are doing it naked.
It’s anything but easy to spend hours talking to men who are occasionally horrible to us. The stigma around stripping causes men to think of us as less than human, and they treat us as such. There are a lot of benefits that make these hard things easier to stomach, but it is by no means easy.
14. The customer is never right.
Don’t fuck with me. The bouncer will have my back over yours every time. The club will kick you out, and I will not even be reprimanded. You are always on camera for my protection.
Do not threaten me and lie about it. Do not try to rip me off. Do not in any way imply that my safety will be compromised if I don’t do what you say. Do not try to snap a picture. I don’t have to say a thing—one look to a bouncer and you are gone, no questions asked. Respect the dancers and we can party all night long; mess with us and the party will be over.
15. I fucking love my job…
And every other girl I’ve ever worked with does, too. I’m not denying the ugly side of the industry. I’m not saying there are no bad days, or no horror stories. But women who are successful at this job love this job.
If you hate it, you won’t last, and you’ll quit. That’s okay. It isn’t for you. Girls whose mental health can’t take the beating, quit. That’s okay, too; it isn’t for them. Girls who are ashamed of the work, quit. That’s okay; it isn’t for them, either.
But me? I love getting dressed up. I love dancing. I love making my own hours. I love being paid in cash. I love the party atmosphere. My morality is intact, and so is my dignity. I felt more degraded working in fast food or retail—where I was treated like shit every shift—than I do here.
This job is for me. It is for my intelligent, diverse and hardworking coworkers—until they decide that it isn’t anymore.
Kellie Merlot is the stage name for a dancer who lives, works and goes to school in Colorado. Her bottle of choice is, obviously, Merlot.